National

Operator of Yokohama automated train struggles to find cause of accident

Kyodo

Driverless train operator Yokohama Seaside Line Co. said Sunday that data transmission was normal between its operating system and a train which ran into a buffer the previous day, injuring 14 people, six of them seriously.

The accident occurred as the automated train traveled in the wrong direction at Shin-Sugita Station in Yokohama at around 8:15 p.m. Saturday.

The railway company said the operating system ordered the train to change its direction when it arrived at Shin-Sugita Station, the end of the 11-kilometer-long line, and the train sent back a signal confirming that the switch had been made. The train moved backward for about 25 meters and hit the buffer shortly after departing.

A government transport safety official probing the accident told reporters that the investigation team will look into every possibility and will interview some of the passengers on the train.

Yokohama Seaside Line has never had an accident since it started operation in 1989, the company said..

At 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, an automated train operated by the company traveled in the wrong direction for about 25 meters at a speed of 6 kph. The cause remains unknown.

The train had been set to depart the station but instead moved backward and crashed into a buffer at Shin-Sugita Station. According to the police, the five-car train was carrying about 30 passengers.

The unmanned train system is automatically operated with a computer system, which sets the speed based on data gathered from all other trains on the line.

When staff checked the brake systems of the cars in question on Thursday, they found no abnormalities, said Akihiko Mikami, president of the operating company.

The company said it has shut down the line, which connects Shin-Sugita and Kanazawa Hakkei stations. It remains uncertain when services will resume.

In Japan, there are several driverless train lines. In October 1993, an automated train in Osaka malfunctioned causing injuries to more than 200 passengers. Transport safety investigators concluded the accident had been caused by an unusual system glitch.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5